Grab your comforter and a flashlight for this tour de force collection from one of our most inventive storytellers.

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THE DARK DARK

These short stories are works of dark, dark magic that skitter between worlds both recognizable and wholly new.

Fans of Hunt's work (Mr. Splitfoot, 2016, etc.) will revel in her first story collection, which marries her signature flare for the fantastic with keen observation and sharp prose. In “Beast,” a woman transforms into a deer each night and frets about how her newfound wild side will affect her marriage. The strip mall sadness of rural Pennsylvania pushes the grown siblings in “Cortés the Killer” to make a series of terrible decisions. A woman moves to Florida to escape memories of a miscarriage, but they come flooding back during a hurricane in “The House Began to Pitch.” And, in “Love Machine,” a lonely FBI agent botches a mission in order to consummate his love for a killer robot. Even when things get strange, Hunt pins language to the page with such precision that you’ll never doubt her for a moment. Not even when, in “All Hands,” 13 teenage girls get pregnant in an homage to the Founding Fathers—then steal a moment between classes to “[lift] off the ground” like “floating balloons...full of grace.” Hunt also has a knack for writing about the particular sadness and anxiety of middle-aged women in suburban and rural America, whether precipitated by motherhood, marriage, or loneliness. As one narrator remarks in “Love Story,” “while no one wants to hear about middle-aged female sexual desire, I don’t care anymore what no one thinks.” Thankfully, Hunt is more than good enough to make you care.

Grab your comforter and a flashlight for this tour de force collection from one of our most inventive storytellers.

Pub Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-28213-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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